Many people dread that yearly visit to their gynecologist but in most cases the pap smear goes quickly and is not painful. If you dread this visit and have been putting it off, you should call your gynecologist now and make your appointment. This could help you prevent cervical cancer or get treatment early if cancer is found. Below is some information about uterine cancer so you can better understand it.
It is estimated that 60,050 women in the United States will be diagnosed with uterine cancer this year. If you catch this cancer in the early stages, your five-year survival rate is 95%, but if the cancer has spread, this percentage drops to 68%. If the cancer has spread further into your body, the five-year survival rate is 17%.
Getting your pap smear can catch this cancer in the early stages so you can get the treatment you need. In some cases, the test will show pre-cancerous cells, and if these cells are removed in time, you will not develop cancer at all. The doctor will insert their fingers into your vagina to feel your womb, ovaries, and cervix to determine their sizes and if any cysts or tumors are present.
Your doctor will tell you how often you should get a pap smear.
Precancerous Cervical Lesion
During the pap test, the gynecologist will look for precancerous cervical lesions, which is a change in the cells in your cervix that may develop into cervical cancer. If they find one or more of these lesions, they will ask you to come back for another pap smear to have it retested. If it is confirmed, the doctor can do a procedure to remove these cells such one of the procedures below.
- LEEP (loop electrosurgical excision): During this procedure, the doctor will place an electrically charged wire into your uterus to destroy the lesions.
- Cryotherapy (freezing): This procedure freezes the lesions using a cold probe. This will cause the lesions to shed from your cervix over time.
- Laser: The doctor will use a laser light to destroy the cells.
All three of these procedures can be done in your gynecologist's office. Removing these lesions will help you avoid developing cancer at all.
If your pap test comes back abnormal, the gynecologist will take a sample of tissue from your uterus for a biopsy. If this sample comes back as abnormal, this may mean that you have cervical cancer and you will start treatment.